Sustainable and ethical jewellery handmade by Shailee Koranne
Shailee Koranne is an Equity Studies student at the University of Toronto. When not studying, freelance writing, working, or participating in student council, Koranne manages an online independently-run business called Shailee’s Craftin’, where she sells her own affordable handmade jewellery. She then donates 50 percent of all proceeds to charity.
She began making necklaces two years ago in her first year of university as a hobby, occasionally giving them away as gifts. “I intended to sell the pieces then, too,” she began. “But the process of setting up an online shop—the only platform I knew about at the time was Etsy—seemed really confusing. Then I started my summer job and just completely forgot.”
Upon the completion of her third year at UofT, she recently rediscovered the hobby as a method of self-care in the midst of a very difficult period in her life. “This was academically and health-wise the worst year of my life,” she says. “I was weaning off my depression medication and I spent days upon days doing absolutely nothing except sleeping and eating all day. I’m not exaggerating—I didn’t see my partner or my friends for two full weeks because of the withdrawal. When I finally kind of came out of that haze, I realized how much time I had wasted and that my fine motor skills had worsened—albeit not to a very serious degree, but it scared me that my hands were suddenly very shaky! More than anything, I missed being creative and having a hobby, so I broke out some of my old crafting materials and started making necklaces while watching Netflix.”She explains that making jewellery has helped her by bringing some control back into her hands. “Working with pliers and small pieces is helping me regain my fine motor skills. It’s also a very relaxing process in general—once you get the hang of it, making a necklace is something you can do without having to focus too much. I made a ton of necklaces while watching TV one day and then I suddenly had dozens of finished pieces on my hands, so I advertised them on my personal Instagram and within two days I had made over twenty sales!”
One of the biggest appeals to Koranne’s jewellery is her policy: 50 percent of all earnings goes directly to various charities. “I did some research on good charities before I decided on the first one—the Native Youth Sexual Health Network,” says Koranne on her method for choosing which charities to donate to. “I try to look for good causes that get less discussion but are still very important, and less mainstream organizations that don’t take your money to pay their CEOs. I donate to a new charity at every $45 mark, because that equals out to about 15 necklaces. After the NYSHN, I donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and now I’m raising money for Islamic Relief Canada.”
“Another one of the reasons I’ve started making my own small jewellery is because it’s not difficult and I can’t justify dropping $8 on a one-strand, tiny charm necklace at stores when I know it costs a fraction of that price to make,” continues Koranne. “By supporting homemade arts and crafts, you’re supporting an ethical small business. My chokers are the same, if not higher, in quality to the things you would find in H&M, Forever 21, and Zara—but they were made without the use of unethical labour and are still sold at the same or even more affordable prices as fast fashion retailers. In the grander scheme of things, creating my own jewellery is teaching me to be more self-sufficient.”
Koranne has been making chokers out of suede, satin, and leather cord, using a combination of store-bought charms and repurposed old jewellery that she doesn’t wear anymore. “I try to be environmentally-conscious wherever I can,” she says. “Using some older jewellery to make new pieces ends up creating a lot of one-of-a-kind products, which is great, because people really like owning jewellery that is rare in style. Soon, I hope to expand to more necklace styles—I purchased lots of fabric end-pieces and ribbons from small businesses and am going to start making even more beautiful and elaborate chokers. A personal goal for me is to learn how to make stud-back earrings, and maybe other items like tinted lip balms, bags, etc. If those turn out well, I will sell those too!”
For those interested in becoming more involved in supporting charities, Koranne recommends doing a Google search for trustworthy charitable organizations and then donating a bit of your paycheck to them if you are financially able to do so.
“A little goes a long way if you pick a good charity,” explains Koranne. “You can also volunteer an hour or two of your week at a local organization or a student group at your school. It’s actually very easy to get involved as long as you’re willing to do a small search and put yourself out there!”